Lars obiously misunderstands Totten. Reform in Totten's mind is not a differently flavored stew, but a totally different form of food. Reform is the kind wrought by Luther, not Hittler. For individula freedom, against totalitarianism. In that vein, even if Bashar were to an economic reformer, it would not be a political or moral reform. Assad, being chief of the Tribe having acieved primacy in a savage tribal society can not be a true reformer, for if he were, its suicide for himself family clan and tribe.
Your point seems to be that Assad cannot possibly be a reformer because he runs a police state which does not hesitate in using violence.
Of course, it is quite simple for a society to be both. Stalin was a reformer, turning the Soviet Union from a mostly agricultural society to an industrial one in a very short period of time. AND, yes, he killed tens of millions of people to do so. And exhibit B is China over the last thirty years, which has reformed its economy substantially while at the same time using police state tactics.
Really, this is a shoddy piece of work.